Project Sunshine – Don’t Panic!

Some dots have started to be joined that are giving some folk the heebie jeebies about their future fun in Second Life. Nalates Urriah has been covering the Phoenix Viewer issues, with Phoenix announcing at an office hour that support for the old Phoenix client will be ended. The viewer will still connect but going forward there will be no further support, meaning eventually it will become obsolete as Linden Lab introduce new features.

One of those new features has been covered by Inara Pey: Avatar Baking: “and the clock has started!”. This is important people! This is a new project, codenamed Project Sunshine-Server Side Appearance, if you want to read a bit about this, there’s a page on the official Second Life Wiki, which you can read here.

Basically this means that more of the work on baking textures when you change outfits will be performed server side, rather than viewer side, which should help improve performance. Here’s an example, I’m changing outfit on a normal region and everything goes a bit blurry:

Changing Outfit Normal

Eventually the outfit is changed:

Normal Textures

The blurriness doesn’t happen on sims running the server side baking code, there is a pause, but you don’t see the change in slow motion, instead you’ll see numbers on the textures, this is for teting purposes only and won’t appear when the code goes live:

Sunshine Change

Another Sunshine Change

However bear in mind that this is in its early stages and there are some bugs, one of which I ran into:

Initial appearance message after transitioning from an old region to a server-bake region may send an inaccurate appearance, with COF version = 0.

Mismatch Error Again

Mismatch Error

So if you do see this, don’t panic! Also don’t file a Jira like muggins here did, I had skim read the wiki article and hadn’t noticed there was mention of this. Although rather annoyingly, I no longer have permission to view my own report so that I can close it down as a false alarm! I have no idea what has happened to that Jira now, but it should be consigned to the dustbin as it’s a known issue.

So this all looks good, right? Well there’s going to be a certain amount of angst over this, as exemplified in a thread over at SLUniverse. People are concerned that their computers will no longer be able to run Second Life, Cerise Sorbet points out what’s going to happen to people who are running older viewers where the code isn’t updated for the new project:

Just a rundown of how this change affects old viewers —

If running on an old viewer, you will see other avatars as gray people or clouds. For the moment, you may see your own outfit changes correctly; this is only because the temp texture system is still running at the moment, so in the future you could also see yourself as a gray person. Attached prims will still show up the usual way, but all-prim or mesh avatars won’t have their underlying shapes hidden.

 Someone on a new viewer may see you correctly until caches roll over. After that, you will appear as a cloud to them.

Now Phoenix is not coming along for the ride here, the old Phoenix viewer I mean, not Firestorm, that will be just fine as will Linden Lab’s official viewers above version 1. However older viewers that do not incorporate the new code, will no longer work and some people may find their Second Life experience in the gutter. Now before we panic, I’d imagine that plenty of people who still use Phoenix, have hardware capable of running more up to date viewers, but they don’t like the UI, or think they’ll be laggy.

Viewer development is ongoing and whereas at one stage, the newer viewers weren’t great in the performance stakes, they are much improved and continue to improve, so it may be time to say goodbye to your version 1 viewer and move on.

There will probably be some pain for people who simply can’t run a more modern viewer, the key to me here will be just how many. I anticipate it will be a very small number, not as many as people initially think it will be, that’s for sure. Also keep an eye out for what other viewers are available, you may find one that works just fine for you from a third party viewer developer. The key is to not panic, give yourself time to look into the alternatives, hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve been enjoying the official beta viewer lately as well as Firestorm.

Unfortunately technology does have to advance and minimum specs do have to improve over time, this happens in World Of Warcrraft too. Hopefully there will be as little pain as possible for people, but if your pain point is that you simply don’t like viewers other than the old Phoenix viewer, I’m afraid it really is time to look at other viewers.

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